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Do you know what you spend? 5 ways to keep track

This weekend, I didn’t spend any cash. That’s not unusual for me. With most places taking contactless, my bills all paid by Direct Debit and much of my shopping now online, I’m less likely than ever before to use coins and notes when spending money. It’s convenient and quick, but there is a downside – it’s easier to spend more than you realise.

This of course makes it more difficult than ever to keep track of how much you spend, and there are some dangers that come with this.

First you could spend money you don’t have, leaving less in your account to cover those all important bills.  A second risk is you increase the chance you’ll go overdrawn, even if just by a few quid, and incur some nasty charges.

How good are you at keeping track?

A new survey from Newcastle Building Society looked at the spending habits of 2,000 UK adults and found we’re better at guessing where our money goes than knowing exactly what we pay.

They found two-thirds aren’t able to accurately say how much is in their bank account, while many struggle to keep track of their regular spending such as supermarket shopping and commuting costs.

How many people know exactly where their money goes?

  • Supermarket shop – less than 50% know
  • Monthly rent or mortgage payment – 45% know
  • Commuting costs – 38% know
  • Credit card balance – 36% know
  • Spent on last holiday – 23% know
  • How much bills cost – 15% know

*source Newcastle Building Society May 2016

Though it’s not always possible to do more than estimate what you’re spending – especially as you traipse around the supermarket - having a pretty decent idea of your regular outgoings such as rent and bills is easy.

Once you know those figures, and therefore what’s left after you get paid, you should be able to work out your disposable income – the cash available for you to spend or save as you wish.

Five ways to keep track of your spending

Start a simple budget

Use an online Budget planner, or just make some notes in a pad, to work out what the regular bills add up to. You’ll then know what you have to spend each month.

Set up Direct Debits and standing orders to go on the same day

If you can arrange your bills to be paid a day or two after you get your salary, it should be easier to keep track of the money that’s left, and not accidentally be unable to cover your credit card or electricity bill.

Use a banking app

Though not exactly real-time, you can use apps on your smartphone, or online banking at home, to keep an eye on payments in and out, and that all-important bank balance.

Keep your receipts

If you are out for an evening, or regularly using cards to pay, it’s easy to not know quite what you’ve spent. Get into the habit of asking for a receipt, then you can go through them all at the end of the day so you know the exact cost.

Take cash only

For anyone worried about going overdrawn, taking only the cash you can afford out with you is the ultimate trick to stop you spending more than you intend. Since you’ll be able to see how much you have left, you’ll be able to track your spend – just make sure you leave your card at home too.

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